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Derek Walcott Poem

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(Suggested time—40 minutes. This question counts as one-third of the total essay score.)

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In the following poem by Caribbean writer Derek Walcott, the speaker recalls a childhood experience of visiting an elderly woman storyteller. Read the poem carefully. Then, in a well-developed essay, discuss the speaker’s recollection and analyze how Walcott uses poetic devices to convey the significance of the experience.

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XIV

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With the frenzy of an old snake shedding its skin,


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the speckled road, scored with ruts, smelling of mold,

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twisted on itself and reentered the forest

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where the dasheen[1] leaves thicken and folk stories begin.

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Sunset would threaten us as we climbed closer

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to her house up the asphalt hill road, whose yam vines

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wrangled over gutters with the dark reek of moss,


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the shutters closing like the eyelids of that mimosa[2]

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called Ti-Marie; then—lucent as paper lanterns,

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lamplight glowed through the ribs, house after house—

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there was her own lamp at the black twist of the path.

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There’s childhood, and there’s childhood’s aftermath.

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She began to remember at the minute of the fireflies,

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to the sound of pipe water banging in kerosene tins,

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stories she told to my brother and myself.

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Her leaves were the libraries of the Caribbean.


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The luck that was ours, those fragrant origins!


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Her head was magnificent, Sidone. In the gully of her voice

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shadows stood up and walked, her voice travels my shelves.

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She was the lamplight in the stare of two mesmerized boys

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still joined in one shadow, indivisible twins.

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_______________________

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“XIV” from MIDSUMMER by Derek Walcott. Copyright © 1984 by Derek Walcott. Reprinted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC and Faber and Faber Ltd.

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[1] dasheen: tropical plant with large leaves

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[2] mimosa: tropical plant whose leaves close or droop when touched or shaken

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DMU Timestamp: July 23, 2020 19:52

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